Pharmacy bodies have condemned fraudulent pharmacists who allegedly cost the NHS more than £80 million a year.
NHS figures from between 1998 and 2014 suggest that fraud committed by pharmacists costs the health service at least £83m a year, accountancy firm PKF Littlejohn claimed in a report yesterday (September 24).
This figure, based on the average loss rate in the NHS, includes pharmacists claiming money for services they have not provided and failing to declare prescription charges they collect, PKF Littlejohn said.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) director for England Howard Duff said the “vast majority” of pharmacists will be “shocked and appalled” by the report’s allegations, because they “work hard to ensure every penny of NHS funding is used to improve patient care”.
Pharmacists who defraud the NHS are "indefensible" and the RPS "fully supports" any government action to tackle this issue, he told C+D yesterday (September 24).
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said he “unconditionally condemns isolated incidents where a community pharmacist has committed fraud”.
The PFK Littlejohn report also referenced a Daily Mail article from 2014 that said patients fraudulently claiming free prescriptions cost the NHS £237m a year. Mr Darracott stressed that it is a "challenge" for pharmacists to detect this.
"Collecting the fees and policing prescriptions adds to a pharmacists' workload without benefitting patient care. Pharmacy Voice strongly believes that we should overhaul the system, and do away with prescription charges altogether," he added.
In its report, PKF Littlejohn estimated that fraud costs the NHS £3.73 billion a year. This includes at least £121m of fraud by dentists, £12.9m by opticians, and £348m by GPs.
The accountancy firm calculated these figures using data from a series of NHS loss measurement exercises conducted between 1998 and 2014. It called on the NHS to recommence these exercises to generate "accurate knowledge about the extent of fraud".
The Department of Health refused to recognise the “highly speculative report, which is full of inconsistencies”. It is "determined to stamp out fraud in the NHS" and plans to "do even more in the future", it told C+D.
Last year, the DH announced plans for pharmacists to electronically verify patients' eligibility for free prescriptions from 2018 as part of efforts to crack down on prescription fraud.
How can the sector tackle fraud?
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